Thursday 31 March 2011

Unpacking Your Chair

Had the next day of the programme for new professors at Newcastle today.  The focus was on the use of media in support of the professor's role.

So half the day was in the TV studio, with media pro Tony Baker, learning the skills of television interviews  and then practicing them on camera.  This is always fascinating - both because I always learn something new about the art fo the TV interview, and because the academics talk about their research in new ways.  So today I learned a bit about the life and work of John Piper, about a proposal in 1965 to demolish Whitehall and replace it with a new concrete civic space, and about Algerian film-making.

The other half of the day was run by Joanna Berry from the Business School, who took us through a range of Social Media, from blogging and micro-blogging to slideshare, youtube and hootsuite, explaining how they can be used, why they might be helpful and so on: a really fascinating afternoon.

Friday 25 March 2011

A Day in London

Had a very interesting interview with Ruth Spellman CE of the Chartered Management Institute for my book, as well as lunch with my sister.

Also managed to find some time to enjoy the National Gallery.  Started in the Sainsbury wing enjoying the medieval work, then wandered round  ad lib visiting various old favourites, and discovered a fantastic newly-acquired Monet on display!

It is the familiar waterlily pond, but this time reflecting a willow tree at sunset - quite different from the others I've seen of this subject. Wonderful limpid surface to the water, and the whole thing breaks up entirely if you get close - but from a  few yards away is a wonderful meditative piece.  How did he do that?

Returned to the Sainsbury wing to end my visit and discovered that the back of Durer's St Jerome has an apocalyptic vision on it - I didn't remember ever having noticed that before.

Now sat in the Wellcome Collection Cafe awaiting my old friend Laurence Cranmer of Woodgreen Consulting.

Essex Futures Media Training

I spent Wednesday and Thursday with the Essex Futures programme.  The Chancellor, Lord Phillips, gave an excellent introduction to the subject, based on his extensive, varied and eventful media career.  Then the University Comms experts brought us up to speed with some of the key issues they are addressing.

The rest of the two days were run by Karen and Kevin from  Mosaic Publicity.  On the first day, Karen took sus through the 5 Ps of podcasting, and participants made a number of innovative and entertaining podcasts about their projects.

Then on the following day, we were put through our paces in radio and TV interviews.  This is always both daunting and exciting, but everyone performed either well or excellently, and I think everyone found it both useful and enjoyable.  As last year, the Mosaic team were excellent - fun, informative and very practical

Tuesday 15 March 2011

More reflections on Narrative Training

One of the underlying assumptions of narrative work is that we don't know how it is for someone else: what their experience is and how they are making sense of that.  And that is clearly an important and useful assumption.

However, we also did a fascinating exercise on Externalisation in which somebody took on the role of a Problem identified by another participant as being something he or she would like to address.  Then one or two others in the group interviewed the Problem, as Investigative Reporters, seeking to understand the Problem's tactics, intentions, allies and so on - and then the Problem's weak points, the individual's past successes in overcoming the Problem, etc etc.

This may sound a little artificial to anyone who has not worked in this way, but in every case, the Problem's originator reported that the Problem had accurately described its role in his or her life and the strategies he or she used - or could use - against it.

As well as being a fascinating demonstration of the power of Externalisation, it also demonstrated that the person taking on the role of the problem - who in some cases had never met the Problem owner previously - was able to understand the role of the problem in the individual's life, simply by drawing on his or her own intuition, experience etc.

So in fact we need to hold those two things in some kind of creative tension: on the one hand we can have very good insights into how things are for others, and these insights may be useful if explored very tentatively; but on the other hand we must always maintain the starting assumption that we do not know how it is for the other until we have asked, and remain very aware of the risk of our insights (which might in any particular case be wildly inaccurate) influencing our thinking or listening.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Narrative Training

The first two days of the Narrative Training Programme I'm attending at Newcastle University have been very good.  The first day was largely introductory, and we explored what narrative work means, and had fun de-constructing a few frequently-used terms that are perhaps not always helpful.


On day two we explored externalisation in some depth, which really added to my understanding, and also to my experiencing it in different ways, as well as practicing it with others and observing it in different situations.


Interestingly, I've found that my reading of work by Alice Morgan and Michael White has changed since the programme.  Reading the same words conveys different meaning to me...  I guess that relates to a deeper and more experience-based understanding of externalisation, and the broader thinking behind it.


As I said to Liz Todd, one of the training team, it’s not a set of tools, it's about an orientation, a set of attitudes, characterised by an almost na├»ve curiosity, but also informed by a set of skills and practices (such as avoiding accidental internalising questions – or interpreting according to a pre-existing ‘expert’ framework such as Gestalt...)


The training team is a great combination, and the other people on the course are very interested and interesting - so I'm really looking forward to the remaining days of the programme in a few weeks' time - and have lots to practice in the interim.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Academic Leadership Programme

First day of the new academic leadership programme today at Northumbria University.  A great group, and interesting sessions from the PVCs for R&I and L&T Peter Croney and Paul Golding respectively.

As ever, I learned a lot from the wide-ranging discussion - not least what they believe will be most helpful to spend time on in future sessions.   And as so often, the coffee and lunch break conversations were rich too.  Looking forward both to tomorrow's launch of cohort two, and of the next session with this cohort in May.